Professor David Lowe visits the Australian High Commission in New Delhi
On 23 February, a select group of Australian diplomats, former Indian diplomats, academics and others gathered in the Australian High Commission in New Delhi, to give papers, exchange views, recount significant episodes, and generally make some headway into the project, headed by Professor David Lowe, with CHRG Associate members Dr Eric Meadows and Dr David Lee, that will produce a history of Australian diplomatic representation in India.
Having agreed to establish diplomatic relations in 1943, India and Australia exchanged High Commissioners the following year, 1944, three years before India became independent. So, as well as being one of the earliest overseas posts established by Canberra, its earliest history was also one of the most unique.
Among excellent papers dealing with the first 20 years of the High Commission’s work, there was also a paper on the work of American architect Joseph Stein, whose blend of modernism and environmental sensitivity left its mark on many of the now-celebrated buildings in Delhi. Stein designed the core and main residence of the Australian High Commission, and the High Commissioner’s residence still stands today, testifying to his genius.
Another feature of the day was a series of interviews conducted with long-serving locally-engaged staff, Indian members of the High Commission who had seen considerable change and growth over time. The High Commission (and DFAT in Canberra) is supportive of the project and provided considerable assistance as well as a drinks reception at the end of the day.
A second conference, to be held in Melbourne in October this year, will draw on more Australian diplomats and complete the collection of memories and academic interpretations that will form a book on the history of Australian representation in India.